If you like your spies tough, angst-ridden, and British, Velvet is the perfect read for you. Imagine a James Bond universe where Moneypenny, the Director’s mild-mannered secretary, was actually an agent with a higher clearance level than Bond, who just happened to take early retirement behind a desk. That would be Velvet Templeton.
Velvet, Vol. 1 begins with a literal bang—an assassination in Paris in 1973. The assassin, X-Operative 14, muses about a night out drinking a few years ago with other X-Ops agents, where they all realized they had slept with the same woman, the Director’s secretary Velvet Templeton, and they all thought they were the only one. As the agent escapes from his pursuers, he wonders if he had talked to Velvet about her dangerous past and confided that he knew there was more to her, if things might have turned out differently. Instead, X-Operative 14, Agent Jefferson Keller, is dead by page 3.
And by page 23, our protagonist, Velvet, is framed for his murder. Velvet, Vol. 1 follows Velvet across Europe in an attempt to retrace Agent Keller’s last missions. Velvet hopes to discover what led to the agent’s death and her own framing, but instead she discovers a tangled web of deception that reveals moles in the agency she calls home and lies that stretch back over two decades into Velvet’s dangerous past as Codename Valentine.
Velvet, Vol. 2 opens with Velvet returning to London to find answers in the very place that betrayed her—the agency. The perspectives in this volume flit back and forth between Velvet and two men assigned to bring her in, Roberts and Colt. The different perspectives allow the vastness of the conspiracy to finally appear, as well as deepening the character development taking place on the page. This volume cranks up the conspiracy while filling in some missing pieces and introducing several new players to the game, including the enigmatic Damian Lake.
Velvet is everything you could hope for in an Ed Brubaker book. It is moody, atmospheric, and pulls all of the best from his previous criminal and espionage books like Fatale, Criminal, and Captain America. His spy world is fully realized. The glamor, sex, drugs, and violence are all laid out on the page, making this an adult read. The Cold War setting, plus the flashback sequences, work like a living, breathing character that is given life by Steve Epting’s crisp line work and Elizabeth Breitweiser’s glorious coloring. Velvet Templeton is a character to root for—smart, strong, and gorgeous. Her background is slowly revealed during these first ten issues, including her relationships with her husband Agent Mockingbird, her trainer Pauline, and other various allies, assets, and enemies. And yet, through it all, you sense the noose tightening around Velvet’s neck. This is one ride that you won’t want to get off until the very end.
Velvet, Vols 1-2
by Ed Brubaker
Art by Steve Epting
ISBN, Vol 1: 9781607069645
ISBN, Vol 2: 9781632152343
Image Comics, 2014
Publisher Age Rating: M (Mature)